Effective Security Options for Healthcare Facilities

The police recorded a 4% decrease in crimes across England and Wales in the 12 months ending June 2020, attributed to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Crimes such as general theft have reportedly dropped overall by 15%, with the most significant change year on year seen in April to June 2020, when there were 43% fewer theft offences.
However, sadly the effects of the pandemic mean that healthcare facilities have become even more vulnerable to attack. Restricted visitor guidelines, and increased demand for critical PPE items such as masks and gloves, meant these institutions were exposed to opportunistic criminals. Staff cars and bikes have been stolen, ambulance tyres  slashed, hand gel dispensers ripped from walls, and defibrillators and oxygen canisters were key targets for burglars. Given the constant, essential work carried out by health services, the security of staff and physical assets must be fully considered to protect them from opportunistic criminals.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous pressure on our essential healthcare services, adding additional risks and complexity. Facilities managers and specifiers now need to consider these factors to provide adequate protection for patients, visitors, property and assets.
One new issue involves securing additional sites. Additional, temporary areas, built specifically for Coronavirus patients are now common across many hospitals to enable them to cope with the excess demand on their services. Often entirely disconnected from the main hospital, these sites require their own physical security measures to ensure they are adequately protected.
Facilities managers are seeing the benefit of combining fencing, gates, storage enclosures and access control as part of a complete solution to secure such buildings. With the right combination of security measures in place, it’s possible to operate effectively 365 days a year, through the pandemic and beyond.
Robust Access Control
Hospitals are fast-paced environments where life and death outcomes are often time-critical. The promptness of patient admittance and staff movement around the site is hugely important. As such, efficient, seamless access is vital. All gates and access points around the perimeter need to be assessed and considered, and each of the access points should be installed and controlled centrally, or regularly monitored.
Another principal consideration is the diverse range of vehicles that require access, including ambulances entering and exiting at speed, lorries carrying crucial medical supplies, and staff and visitor vehicles. The appropriate solution should ensure that all visitors, including site staff, should have access to secure parking, while also allowing emergency vehicles to get in and out of the site unhindered, and without ever compromising the safety of pedestrians.
When designing pedestrian and vehicular access: gates should be DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant. It is important to note that the design of fencing and gates specified needs to accommodate rapid evacuation and access for emergency services.
Secure Parking Solutions 
Multi-storey car parks provide an effective way of parking cars, using far less ground area than conventional parking solutions. Commonly used alongside healthcare facilities, they provide low building costs per vehicle space and a greater degree of flexibility, which ensures faster parking and retrieval times.
These structures need specialist fencing to secure them effectively. Jacksons has worked on several multi-storey car park sites, including one at Lister Hospital, Hertfordshire. Over 1,000 metres of steel welded mesh panels were specified for this development. They created an ultra-secure barrier to stop members of the public from falling through open gaps in the car park’s steel structural framework, yet also delivering an aesthetically pleasing solution which did not impede surveillance.
The security in hospital car parks can be strengthened via rising arm barriers or bollards. These solutions control access and actively separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic once inside the multi-storey structure, thus reducing the risk of accidents.
Promoting Wellness through Aesthetics  
Creating a welcoming environment is extremely important when specifying security options for hospitals. Razor or barbed wire may be effective deterrents to potential trespassers, but they create an intimidating and harsh aesthetic, far removed from the sense of wellbeing these developments should promote.
Vertical bar security fencing or welded mesh panels both offer visual appeal and a high level of security. These options deliver strong boundary protection and, crucially, excellent visibility for surveillance, surpassing any alternatives.
For recreational or recovery areas requiring a delicate appearance, such as gardens, timber fencing is a good option. Timber has a natural, welcoming appearance and promotes a sense of wellbeing and privacy. Wood, in the form of acoustic fencing, can also provide a high level of noise protection, transforming gardens or terraced areas into little oases of calm, ideal for recovery and relaxation.
Outdoor Storage Areas
Hospitals and other medical facilities produce a large amount of hazardous medical waste which requires secure storage on-site before it’s taken away. Hospitals have a responsibility to ensure these areas are secured using risk-appropriate fencing to avoid potentially dangerous materials getting into the wrong hands.
Risk assessments are also vital to ensuring an appropriate solution is installed effectively. For facilities at risk of criminal activity, products accredited by standards including Secured by Design or the Loss Prevention Certification Board’s LPS 1175 have been shown to reduce the likelihood of crime. It’s also best practice to assess any climbing aids such as lamp posts or trees located near the storage areas. The surrounding fence should also be high enough to deter any attempts at climbing.
The market is brimming with a wide variety of robust, and easy-to-install security options, suitable for healthcare facilities. The most crucial factor is to ensure each institution is considered on a case-by-case basis, as a unique project, as each site is different and will require a tailored plan to keep everyone safe.
by Peter Jackson, Managing Director, Jacksons Fencing